Mai Otome is not so much a sequel to Mai Hime as it is a fanfic written by the folks who originated the thing in the first place.
Right off the top, Mai Otome is pleasantly free of the “tears and misery” theme of the original. Instead it’s a fantasy world alternate universe, in which all the same characters show up, more or less, but in some cases, completely altered in personality and almost always altered in role.
The story focuses primarily on three girls:
Arika, a familyless, countryless girl who only knows that her mother was an “Otome” (this world’s Valkyrie-esque female warrior-types) and that the blue stone around her neck is from her mother. Arika, by not having any country or family allegiance is refreshingly free of formal manners, without being a bumpkin.
Nina, The adopted, over-achieving, emotionally crippled star of the school who is Arika’s immediate rival.
Mashiro, the spoiled and willful Queen of Windbloom. In Mai Hime, Mashiro was a gentle, kind and tortured girl who ran the school. In this series she’s a raving brat who runs a country. Nice, huh?
Arika is accepted to Garderobe, an exclusive academy in which Otome hopefuls train. Countries send their fair youth in hopes that they will become Otome, and give the country parity in military might to those who do have Otome. (Otome are super-powerful and excessively cool, despite having silly costumes.)
There’s lots of hints about the past and about connections of all three girls to big secrets and yadda yadda, but I don’t care much. (Partially because Mai Hime‘s ending sucked so badly that I refuse to care about this until it proves that it doesn’t suck.) But I do care about the Yuri. So let’s talk about that. ^_^
Right off, Natsuki tells Arika that Otome can’t have sex with men, because PSA and testosterone destroy the nanowhatever that gives a girl her Otome powers. Oh, really? So…hmmm…guess they have to learn to love the women they serve. And speaking of serving…
Shizuru is still cool. Certainly more mysterious, and definitely kick-ass. She is the Otome for Shinzo, the heart of Gaderobe Academy, one Kuga Natsuki. As one of the Five Pillars Shizuru has to stay close to her Master. This means she has to stick pretty close to Natsuki. How close we aren’t yet sure, but they certainly seem comfortable in each other’s company this time around.
Chie’s yuri playboy cool rating was upped by about 2000x. And her one wink at Aoi is enough hint for most fanfic authors. Aoi is Mashiro’s maidservant this time around.
Haruka and Yukino both did well in transition to the new series. Haruka is a quite excellent Otome serving the President of whatever country…yup, you guessed it. Yukino’s organizational skills and detante finally aren’t played for laughs. Haruka’s no less nutsy than she was originally, but in a fun, powerful, and really competent way. (A very sexy quality in a woman, I always think.)
Yuri fanservice is plentiful – the older “Pearl Class” Otome in training are assigned younger “Coral Class” students as attendants. Chie isn’t above making them blush cutely. Nor is Shizuru avoiding physical contact with the girls either. She must grab one often enough to cause Natsuki to roll her eyes when she does it to Arika.
When an invisible tentacle eel-monster-thing invades the pool, she thinks (bizarrely) that Nina is copping a feel. (Nina’s reaction is, btw, perfect – she tests Erstin’s head for a fever…) Erstin tells Nina, quite unnecessarily, that they are both girls – but she qualifies this by saying that if it’s Nina, it’s okay. Later she gives Nina a form of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation that is definitely NOT approved by the Red Cross.
Art – 6
Story – 8
Character – 8
Music – 7
Yuri – 6
Service – 8
Overall – 7
In short, pretty, shiny fun with a 40% chance of “good.”